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May 1, 2007

Google Trends
Posted by Teresa at 12:29 AM * 57 comments

These days I can’t begin to keep track of all of Google’s specialized search functions. I think they’re plotting to take over the world by being useful. Anyway, I want to recommend one of their odder consumer products: Google Trends. To cautiously quote Wikipedia on the subject:

Google Trends is a tool from Google Labs that shows the most popularly searched terms from the beginning of 2004 to now.

Google Trends charts how often a particular search term is entered relative to the total search volume across various regions of the world, and in various languages. The horizontal axis of the graph represents time (starting from some time in 2004), and the vertical is how often a term is searched for relative to the total number of searches, globally. It also allows the user to compare the volume of searches between two or more terms. An additional feature of Google Trends is in its ability to show news related to the search term overlaid on the chart, showing how new events affect search popularity.

It isn’t all that useful for basic research. It casts too coarse a net. Ask it how D. H. Lawrence stands in the ratings, and it’ll tell you they don’t have enough search volume to show graphs. What it’s brilliant for is tracking right-wing disinformation campaigns. They stand out like so many sore thumbs.

Check out some search strings:

Illegal immigrants: That one was the subject of a disinformation campaign, but it looks like those big protest marches made ’em back off.

Iran nuclear weapons: I take this to mean that George was pushing for it, but he’s got too many other problems on his plate so he’s letting it slide.

If you enter more than one search string, and separate the strings with commas, Google Trends will compare them.

George Bush drinking: that’s right around the time I saw the tabloids start talking about it.

And my favorite:

Bipartisan. Doesn’t that just speak for itself? You can tell exactly when the Democrats came back into power.

Comments on Google Trends:
#1 ::: Andy Vance ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:25 AM:

Lead zeppelin.

#2 ::: Scott Parkerson ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:50 AM:

Nothing is too banal.

#3 ::: Ragnell ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:01 AM:

Green Lantern is making a pathetic showing. We really need a GL movie.

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:27 AM:

They stand out like so many sore thumbs.

Why does it have to be a sore thumb? Land a brick on your middle finger's nail, or slam your car door on your little finger's tip, and you'll find that they too feel pain, no less than the Thumb, who gets all the press...

As for a Green Lantern movie... I have only one word: giant green boxing glove. Okay, that's four words.

#5 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 05:30 AM:

I think this is good news.

#6 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:01 AM:

When I was single-digit young, I had a dream with the aspect of a 1930s Tex Avery cartoon I'd seen about a crooning ice-man bird. I was driving a toy car and really enjoying it. In the passenger seat, some other kid (or bird) protested that it was his car. I turned to him with a smarmy animated expresion and brightly said, "Then we'll share it -- pal!"

Bipartisanship!

#7 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:07 AM:

Remember when May Day was about spring and violets and renewal? Now, the May Day Google Trends line is peaking higher. Probably not unrelated: Bush's War: That was then, this is now. When the flag waving ends and reality sets in.

#8 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 10:44 AM:

I would expect "bipartisan" to become more common when there is divided power or an upcoming election. I have no idea what the little blips mean though.

It's interesting to look at "Iraq"; there's a big peak which looks like it's driven by the invasion itself, but the rest is flat, flat, flat.

"Sex" seems to dwarf everything, though "World Cup" gives it a run back when it was on.

You can compare trends with search terms separated by commas. I propose try to find well-correlated but (one hopes) bogus comparisons. It's harder than it looks, because the chart doesn't normalize. "Dracula, Frankenstein" correlates really well but presumably isn't bogus. (It is a little scary to see Bucharest, Romania as the biggest source of "Dracula" queries...)

#9 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:08 AM:

You can also see what languages were used the most. The chart of searches for "global warming" rises steadily until it hockey-sticks in 2007, which is probably good news. Interesting that Tagalog (Philippines) is the top language, and that places that really, really need the ocean are the top locations (Perth, Luzon, Caribbean).

I am innumerate. So, does "normalized" mean that the top language/place is not the one with the most searches in raw numbers, but the most searches per capita?????

#10 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:14 AM:

I was comparing coffee and tea, which track each other closely except for July 2005, when coffee suddenly has twice as many hits, beofre settling down to just above tea. Did something coffee related happen then?

#11 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:29 AM:

I'm most concerned for Xander. He's really lagging behind the other Buffy characters in your link. Up with Xander! The Heart!

#13 ::: Rich ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:25 PM:

How about this one.

Hoopla, then no hoopla.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:29 PM:

I am heartened that the top source of searches for 'Justice' was Washington DC.

#15 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:41 PM:

Ooo, fun! Intelligent Design, Evolution makes a pretty picture.

#16 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:59 PM:

Oh, jeez, I'm not going to get any work done today...

superman, batman, spiderman

#17 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:27 PM:

Terran, Martian makes an interesting pattern too.

#18 ::: Henry C ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:46 PM:

There's also a recent spike in peom, I'd guess thanks to this blog.

#19 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:49 PM:

What about dinosaurs and sodomy?
(C'mon... Someone had to say it.)

#20 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 17

I knew I was right to move out of Pleasanton! Living next door to John Bigboote was the giveaway.

#21 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:58 PM:

Serge @ 19


Ask and you shall receive

#22 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:58 PM:

Pour vous, Serge:

Dinosaurs, Sodomy, Knitting

#23 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:02 PM:

Someone ought to tell Scalzi:

cats, cheese

And Meg? Perth is letting down the cheese side.

#24 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 05:40 PM:

Justine Larbalestier too:

zombies vs. unicorns

I think she (and Elizabeth Bear) will be pleased to see that zombies have a rather pitiful showing.

#25 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 05:43 PM:

UNICORNS have a pitiful showing. Arrgh. Dratted job that derails my train of thought.

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 05:43 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 21 and Tania @ 22... I notice that dinosaur's frequency is like a rollercoaster while sodomy's shows little variations, in spite of ML's best efforts.

#27 ::: Enoch Root ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:22 PM:

For 'bipartisan,' why is the top region Italy, and the top language Italian?

Do they have so many parties in Italy that they have to research what it means to only have two?

#28 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:35 PM:

Enoch #27:

Yes. It's the main reason they've had at least 50 governments in the last 50 years. Can't hold a coalition together for more than a few months without something/somebody going off the rails.

#29 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:24 PM:

It would be fun to toss the TV show Lost into the Torchwood, Life on Mars, etc mix, but the different meanings would boost it more than Heroes artificial (but deserved) placement.

I think that ocecats had a big showing in 2006, boosting ocelots.

#30 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:55 PM:

Nobody but me did an "ego" query? Dawno searches had a big peak in May of 2006, that's when AW shut down - but I'm not certain of the correlation because I also see that the "top ten" cities listed were all in Poland. I had figured out from searching on Dawno in the past, and doing some online translations of what I found, that it means "long ago" in Polish. It's the opening sentence or title of a lot of the stories posted online in Polish, so I guess it's pretty much the same as saying "once upon a time".

It's also the name of a shoe.

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:30 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToMartians) #20: Indeed!

#32 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:33 PM:

Is it a coincidence that the greatest interest in Serge is in Quebec?

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:43 PM:

Just to get some inter-thread activity going, I looked up "science fiction" and "romney".

#34 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:51 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 33

Oops, as Romney goes up science fiction goes down. Shows the effect of "Battleground Earth" in the hands of politicians. We should have it declared a WMD.

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:02 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #34: Er, that's Battlefield Earth, and, yes, it should be declared a WMD (weapon of mass delusion). I read it, back in the mid-80s and managed to get through to the end. It's a pretty awful book (the 'Decalogy' that followed it was even worse).

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:09 PM:

Fragano @ 32... Is it a coincidence that the greatest interest in Serge is in Quebec?

Amazingly, the next center of interest is Toulouse, even before Paris la Ville Lumière...

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:22 PM:

When I try 'Abi', the greatest interest is in Florence, followed by the UK's Bletchley (same one as in Bletchley Park?).

#38 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:33 PM:

Serge #36: I wonder why that is. #37: Yes, it would be.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:34 PM:

"...Your terms - Fragano - do not have enough search volume to show graphs..."

Well, excuuuuuuuse me.

#40 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:37 PM:

Road to the Isles!

Oh, and this might be a touch inflated: Science Fiction v. Fantasy

#41 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:58 PM:

Serge #39: Well, now, having an unlisted name is the new hotness...

#42 ::: RedMolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:02 PM:

Tania @ 24: I am absurdly pleased to see that my soon-to-be hometown of Portland scores so well on the zombie-meter. Who knew the Pacific Northwest was home to so many slavering fans of the living dead?

Alas, in a head-to-head face-off, vampires still beat zombies handily, though it looks as though fascination with blood-suckers is trending downward while interest in the shambling sort of undead continues to rise gently apace.

#43 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:14 PM:

RedMolly @ 42... Who knew the Pacific Northwest was home to so many slavering fans of the living dead?

...must... eat... griiiiinnnds...

(Well, coffee is readily available even in the smallest towns up there, and strong enough to wake the dead.)

#44 ::: RedMolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:05 AM:

Serge @ 43: Oh yes, resurrection-style coffee. Reason #437 on the official list of reasons Portland will be a better city in which to live than the current one. (Reason #436: never again having to live, as far as I can tell, round the corner from a house with a driveway crammed full of Halliburton trucks.)

Sisuile @ 40: a very strange thing happens, though, when you look at the trendline for fantasy novels.

#45 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:16 AM:

Re #34 "We should have [Battlefield Earth] declared a WMD."

Why not? You may have noticed that the guy recently arrested for placing a home-made bomb in a clinic parking-lot was charged with (among other things, but apparently not "Terrorism") "Using a weapon of mass destruction".

The pipe-bomb in question appears to have been less destructive than standard-issue military hand-grenades and mortar rounds, which the Army of the former dictator of Iraq certainly posessed, so it's now firmly established that Saddam Hussein did, in fact, have Weapons of Mass Destruction and our invasion of that country was perfectly justified. I'm feeling much better now.


#46 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:17 AM:

Bruce @ 23

And Meg? Perth is letting down the cheese side.

Must try harder.

I note meanwhile that searches for kangaroos and emus show an interesting differentiation. Oddly enough, nobody appears to be looking for the roos. All the interest is in the emus. So much for one half of our coat of arms.

#47 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:58 AM:

So, when's St. Patrick's Day again?

#48 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:58 AM:

Here's something I just noticed; almost every search seems to take a hit over the Easter weekend. (2004 April 11, 2005 March 27, 2006 April 16) Most of them seem to dip a little at Christmas as well, but not quite so much.

Pagan sees a peak every Easter and Christmas, and smaller ones at equinoxes and solstices.

Looking at it one more time, Pagan actually sees a rise towards the winter solstice, then rises AGAIN over Christmas.

#49 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:45 AM:

It is my belief that if it cannot be googled that it does not really exist.

#50 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 09:14 AM:

#9: So, does "normalized" mean that the top language/place is not the one with the most searches in raw numbers, but the most searches per capita?????

They explain it at a link. It means they divide the number of searches referencing the search term by the total of all searches in that language/from that place. So, if people in Bucharest are exceptionally interested in vampires, even though they don't do all that many searches compared to people from New York, they still get a high rank.

#51 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:04 PM:
I am absurdly pleased to see that my soon-to-be hometown of Portland scores so well on the zombie-meter.

Paging Stephan Zielinski: You have a call from the Sequel Daemon holding on line two.

#52 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:35 PM:

RedMolly @ 44

I don't think I've ever even seen a Halliburton truck in Portland. Of course, I haven't seen any black helicopters either, so it may just be bad vision.

#53 ::: RedMolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Chris Clarke @ 51: Hee. I've not been reading Making Light long enough; I had to dip into the past via the magic of Google to figure out what you were talking about.

BruceCohen @ 52: the main drag of our fair city is now festooned with a series of Halliburton HR billboards. Apparently they are always hiring; they pay quite well; most of the rig jobs require little or no experience or education; your large white truck, gigantic American (or Confederate--take your pick) flag and shotgun are issued at employee orientation.

This area boomed in the early '80s when Exxon (and a few other companies) started blowing up mountainsides going after oil shale. Predictably, it all flamed out spectacularly when it became apparent that oil shale was far too inefficient (not to mention environmentally destructive) to be a worthwhile source of energy. You can drive all over the county and not find a single house built between about 1982 and 1988... people vanished overnight, leaving their still-furnished brand-new tract houses behind them. Now with the current lip service being paid to "energy independence," our rocky and inaccessible oilfields are looking tempting once more. Even Exxon is sniffing around again.

Those who have lived here since before the first oil-go-round shake their heads and hold on to their wallets. Those who moved here thinking this looked like a town on the verge of a takeover by priced-out Denverites in search of good restaurants and an active arts scene are getting the heck out as fast as we can.

#54 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 07:12 PM:

RedMolly #53: Enjoy it while you can. Once you get to know Stephan it's much harder to figure out what people are talking about.

#55 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:08 PM:

RedMolly @ 53

Welcome to the Monkey House, then. We've had an influx of Californians cashing in their real estate and inflating ours in the last few years, but Portland is still pretty much a rainbow city in a Red state. And what I think is the best music scene this side of Austin.

#56 ::: Gabrielle ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 02:01 PM:

They call it 4chan.

And I was thinking maybe, mudkips?

#57 ::: richard ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 03:03 AM:

I'm starting to get pretty creeped out here...
I just used Google Trends to search for geeky stuff like digg, reddit, lolcat, 4chan, pedobear, longcat, and more stuff like that.

I live near Pleasanton, CA and I was wondering why the hell I keep seeing it on the results for those search terms. Then I googled "4chan pleasanton" and ended up at this page.

Oddest night on the interwebs ever... And that's saying a lot.

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